Leadership Practice in Small Asylum Seeker and Refugee Charities

Vivyan, Sally (2022). Leadership Practice in Small Asylum Seeker and Refugee Charities. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00014e2c


This thesis explores leadership practice in small asylum seeker and refugee charities. It draws on a single in-depth case study of a charity based in the North East of England. Fieldwork was conducted over 14 months employing a range of qualitative data collection methods. A Leadership- as- Practice (L-A-P) theoretical lens was adopted and reflexive thematic analysis used to generate findings that provide an in-depth and holistic account of leadership practice. Leadership practice at the charity is conceptualised as containing collective and collaborative elements. The relational dynamics of this leadership practice are brought to the fore, including how people interact across social and organisational boundaries and with their material environment to set the direction of work. The context of the UK asylum system and trends in the UK voluntary sector are also shown to have a tangible impact on leadership practice at the charity both at the day to day level and on an organisational scale. The L-A-P lens brings a distinctive understanding of materiality to the analysis, which is expressed through evocative vignettes. It also enables the use of post heroic and critical leadership theories as a toolbox from which concepts can be drawn to form a holistic account of leadership practice. This approach may be particularly suited to the study of small charities which are heavily influenced by factors that are not the focus of traditional heroic theories of leadership. Overall, this thesis furthers our understanding of leadership in voluntary sector settings and helps to develop L-A-P as an approach to leadership research. The insights it generates into the UK asylum system and voluntary sector also make this thesis of relevance to literature focused on these fields.

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